On the Confederate Flag, Symbols, and Who Decides

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The Confederate flag comes down in South Carolina 7/10/15

I had some quick thoughts about the Confederate flag controversy. I’ve heard a lot of otherwise reasonable and intelligent people claim that the flag means something other than slavery and racism to them. Southern heritage and pride comes up a lot, and no one is saying it’s not okay to be proud of where you come from. I lived in the South for six years, and there is beauty to be had almost everywhere you go.

But.

Here’s the deal. You need to learn to seperate Southern heritage and pride, which are entirely understandable and justifiable things, from a symbol of racism and hatred. Because I’m sorry folks, but that’s what the Southern Cross is. It was flown by traitors to the country who seceded so they could preserve their slave-based economy. It was once more revived in the 1950’s as a symbol of segregation and Jim Crow laws.

What white southerners think the flag means to them is immaterial. They are not the people who get to decide what the flag represents.

Think of it like this. We don’t ask the Jews to accept whatever meaning the decedents of Nazi soldiers choose to believe the swastika means, because they were the victims of the evil perpetrated under that symbol.

In the same respect, it’s not the decedents of white slave owners we should be asking about the meaning of the Confederate flag. It’s the decedents of the slaves. And not just decedents, we’re also talking about people who are still with us who lived through the beatings, arrests, hoses, dogs, stones, and even lynchings committed under that symbol during the Civil Rights movement.

If you care about fairness, equality, and compassion, those are the people whose opinion should carry the most weight with you.

It’s okay to be proud of being from the South. It’s even okay to be proud of your ancestors who fought and died for a matter of principle that turned out to be on the wrong side of history.

But it’s not okay anymore to continue supporting the symbol and embodiment of those sins, while insisting that everyone affected by them accept the justifications and meaning you have created for yourself while ignoring their lived experiences.

That time is long past.

Scott Walker: “God is Calling Me to Put a Democrat in the White House”

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Yesterday afternoon, Wisconsin Governor and conservative icon Scott Walker launched his utterly doomed campaign for the Presidency of the United States. In a fundraising email sent out to supporters, Walker spoke at length about his Christian faith and how he came to decide to embark on the quixotic quest for the White House.

“My relationship with God drives every major decision in my life. Each day I pray and then take time to read from the Bible and from a devotional named Jesus Calling. God has a plan for everyone, and His plan for me is to run for President… and get absolutely hammered.”

Pointing to other candidates in the GOP field who were also drafted by God to be eviscerated by the eventual Democratic nominee, such as Mike Huckabee and perennial nitwit Rick Santorum, Walker’s spirits only rose:

“The Almighty has called upon many of His loyal servants to sacrifice their political futures this election season. It is my opinion that no one candidate really encapsulates all of the completely awful, regressive, and unnecessarily cruel policy proposals that are so important to our supporters. If the rest of the nation is going to be exposed to the full breadth of this toxic mix of anti-science, dehumanizing, sexist, indeed racist beliefs that permeate the rightwing of the polity, well, that’s just too much responsibility for one man to bear. You have to spread the load.

After months of prayer, I believe with all my heart that it is God’s intention to have my run go deep into the Republican primary season, exposing my unparalleled record of incompetence and corruption as Governor of Wisconsin to a national audience so the American people can see for themselves just what an absolute nightmare the country would experience if they adopted even a fraction of my economic proposals.

God willing, and with the dedication of my supporters, it is my great hope that I’ll go on to capture the nomination so that the American people can be absolutely horrified by my steadfast opposition to Same Sex Marriage, a woman’s right to body autonomy, history of gutting public education, and desire to rip out the Affordable Care Act by the roots without any viable plan to replace it, leaving millions without healthcare coverage.

I look forward to debating my Democratic rival on national television, where my numerous shortcomings as Governor of the now ruined state of Wisconsin can be exposed in exquisite detail. Yes, it will be personally humiliating, and will mean the end of my political career, but it’s God’s will. And I could no more ignore His calling than I could ignore the opportunity to strip public unions of collective bargaining rights,  pass right-to-work legislation after I promised not to, or double down on drug testing welfare and unemployment recipients even when it’s been a proven disaster in every state that’s implemented it.

In the end, it’s God’s plan to use me to make the choice the American people face next November as clear cut and unequivocal as possible, and I believe I am up to the challenge.”

THE ARK is Boarding!

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Hey everyone. Well, here it is, the beginning of the self-promotion deluge. I’ll try to keep it to a dull roar.

My debut, THE ARK, has just gone live for preorders. For those of you who aren’t neck deep in publishing industry stuff, a book’s preorders are a very important metric that publishers use when determining how much weight to put behind a given title and helps to determine things like the size of an initial print run, marketing allotments, and a host of other factors that can greatly contribute to a novel’s success.

So if you plan to buy THE ARK, please consider preordering it now. It will be very helpful to me and greatly appreciated. You can reserve your copy at Amazon.

GenCon is Coming. Here’s Where I’ll Be

untitled (2)After a couple of years away and in the run-up to the November release of THE ARK, I’ll once again be making the trek to Indianapolis to participate in the wonderful GenCon Writer’s Symposium. If you’re unaware, the Symposium is one of the strongest and largest literary tracks at any convention in the country. It was attending the Symposium five years ago when I got my foot in the door as a slush editor at Apex. It was at GenCon that I made the connections I needed to write tie-in fic for BattleTech. It has shaved years off my development as a professional author.

This year’s programming features over seventy-five published authors, agents, and editors sharing their knowledge of writing and the publishing industry in a couple hundred hours worth of panels, AMA’s, and interviews.

Anyway, here’s what I’ll be up to over the weekend. In addition to my author cap, I’ll be flexing my stand up muscles as the opening act for my dear friends The Damsels of Dorkington:

-Thursday 11:00am Room 243, Writer’s Craft: Where to Start the Story SEM1577156
-Thursday 5:00pm Room 244, Business of Writing: Pitching your Project SEM1577116
-Thursday 6:00pm Room 244, Worldbuilding: When Your World is a Character SEM1577117
-Thursday 8:00pm: Dorkington Presents: This Dorkington Life ENT1568096 (Nerdy storytelling show. BTW Anne Wheaton is scheduled to appear)
-Friday 8:00pm: Dorkington Presents: Science Friction ENT1568125 (Nerd improv comedy show)
-Saturday 3:00pm Room 243, Writer’s Craft: Magic and the Modern World SEM1578856
-Saturday 7:00pm: Dorkington Presents: Deeper Dickins II: The Dickening ENT1568156 (Nerd improv comedy show)
-Sunday 9:00am Room 242, Read & Critique WKS1578889

Covers Uncovered!

Over the weekend, while I was hanging out with a cadre of other Angry Robot authors and employees at CONvergence, the next big step in the roll out of my debut, THE ARK, took place.

Over the last couple of months, photographer and digital artist Larry Rostant has been hard at work preparing cover art for both THE ARK and the follow-up, TRIDENT’S FORGE. Larry’s covers are very well respected among authors and fans of the sci-fi and fantasy genres. He’s done work for other friends of mine, including Myke Cole’s latest release, GEMINI CELL.

Securing Larry’s talents for not just a debut novel, but the sequel even before the first draft is finished is a bit of a coup and shows how much faith Angry Robot Books has in them. I am pleased and humbled by the results. So without further adieu, here they are:

TheArk final cover

 

TridentsForge final cover

I’m super happy with how they turned out. Larry’s choice of model for the main character, Bryan Benson, hits all the right notes. He’s athletic without being grotesque, and has the sort of blended, indeterminate racial features you’d expect after eleven generations of interbreeding onboard a generation ship. There’s even a nice little Easter egg hiding on the TRIDENT’S FORGE cover that Angry Robot let me sneak in. Also, the tag lines capture the tone of the books almost perfectly.

All things considered, I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. Everyone involved has done a wonderful job positioning these books to be the sort of breakout successes I sincerely hope they can be.

THE ARK will be available for preorders soon. Keep eyes on this space for updates.

America. Fuck Yeah.

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It’s been a rough week for assholes.

First, we all kinda realized that flying the flag of an enemy nation comprised of treasonous, slavery-defending jack wagons was a weird thing to be doing in 2015. Then the law which has already seen a thirty-five percent drop in the uninsured rate was upheld against a blatantly ridiculous legal challenge.

Then, the big guns came out today as the Supreme Court affirmed the basic human rights of all Americans to marry the consenting adult of their choice.

I should say now, I’m not a gay man, any more than I’m a black man, or someone with a preexisting condition that would prevent me from getting health insurance. I’m a straight white man who runs half marathons. I like my women smart, athletic, and sassy.

But I am a geek, and an atheist. And as a geek and an atheist in his mid-thirties who grew up in a rural, religious, conservative town, I do have some insight into what it feels like to be ostracized and alone. I remember vividly the feeling that my community didn’t care about me, rejected me, hated me.

And then I remember the moment when I moved away from Westfield, Wisconsin, to a larger community with new people who didn’t hold preconceived notions and biases about who I was. Who didn’t look at me with disdain. I started building a life there, friends, the beginnings of a family, and the dam burst in my heart.

All of the pain, all of the anguish, all of the isolation and rejection I’d grown up feeling melted away. I became a whole person for the first time. Strong, confident, and happy.

America just did the same for all of my gay and lesbian friends. America jus told them that they weren’t alone anymore. That they can build families, lives, and futures for themselves, no matter where they live, no matter who they love.

I’m crying as I write this, because I’ve never been prouder of this beautiful country I call home. I feel like we’ve turned a corner this week. We’re facing injustice and hate in a way I’ve never seen in my lifetime. It is glorious, and it’s just the beginning.

America.

Fuck yeah.

CONvergence 2015

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Hey gang. Just a quick update. Next weekend, I’ll be joining dozens of other writers, editors, agents, and other publishing industry professionals in Bloomington, MN for CONvergence.

If you’ve never been to this four day bender of reckless geeky hedonism, you’re missing out. We stuff about six thousand thirsty nerds into the Double Tree Hilton, most of which spend Friday and Saturday nights walking around the pool, sashaying from one themed room party to the next on two different floors, drinking simply hazardous amounts of booze from all across the galaxy, appreciating the copious talented cosplayers, and making awkward passes at the opposite sex, or the same sex, whatever, do you.

Anyway, somewhere in between bouts of binging, fighting over parking spots like they were a gallon of fresh water in Cali, and eating at TGIFriday’s, attendees at CONvergence also have access to an excellent and growing literary track.

Here’s my schedule:

http://schedule.convergence-con.org/?s=Patrick+Tomlinson#.VYgcv5VRG00

I’m particularly looking forward to the Adding Humor panel. Something tells me that’s going to be right up my alley. Anyway, weather permitting, I’ll be riding my bike up from Milwaukee, so if you see me Wednesday night and I smell like sweat, gasoline, and bug guts, it’s only because I haven’t found a shower yet. Also, I’ll be living off of only what I can stuff inside a single back pack and rooming with two other dudes for the weekend, so now that I think about it, the situation is unlikely to greatly improve.

 

 

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Don’t quit your day job.

As an author and aspiring comedian, it’s a refrain I hear constantly. Sometimes directed at my friends and colleagues, sometimes at me. Sometimes it’s sincere advice given by people who have already passed down these roads, know their perils, and know what it takes to walk the path successfully. But more often than not, it’s just a mean-spirited attack launched by snarky assholes who make themselves feel better by disparaging what others are trying to build.

To those people, all I can say is this. Don’t quit your day job, either. Don’t nurture the ambition necessary to take a leap of faith. Don’t dedicate yourselves to developing your talents and honing your craft. Don’t build up the courage to follow your dreams.

Just stay right where you are, in your safe little cubicle, avoiding the risks and never chasing the rewards that a life of creative pursuits may bring. Continue counting off the days until you either retire, or your boss replaces you with an equally bland, faceless cog in an uncaring machine.

Stay at the foot of the mountain, where it’s safe. Some of us will risk the climb, and the few lucky enough to reach the summit will wave back down on you and smile. And even those who fail will have reached higher than you ever dared.

Governor Walker Pledges Pre-Emptive Strike Against Himself

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In a bold, yet unorthodox ploy to bolster his faltering bid to capture the GOP nomination, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker promised to launch pre-emptive military strikes to counter any potential threats to the United States, including himself.

Speaking at a gathering of Republican leaders in Oklahoma last Thursday, Walker stated “It’s not if another attempt is made on American soil, it is when.” He said he’d “take the fight to them before they take the fight to us.”

However, the second-term Governor and Tea-Party darling didn’t stop there. “But that’s just common sense. Anybody can talk tough about fighting threats overseas. What separates me from my colleagues running for the nomination is I am willing to make the tough calls to stop threats already inside our borders.”

Gov Walker then placed a hand over his heart. “For example, my own attacks on public sector unions, slashes to education funding, flagrant attempts to disenfranchise poor and minority voters, my refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion, and the frontal assault on women’s reproductive rights that I’ve been waging against the good people of Wisconsin can only be understood as a sort of economic terrorism, the effects of which will be felt for generations by the children of the rubes who elected me three times in four years.”

“If the American people were, heaven forbid, to actually select me as their next President and allow the policies that have ravaged the once great state of Wisconsin to extend to all three-hundred million U.S. citizens, well…” A visibly shaken Walker paused to collect himself before continuing. “The consequences of that just don’t bear thinking about. Which is why I pledge, here and now, that if elected, my first act as President will be to bring the full force of the U.S. military to bear against all enemies facing our great nation, be they ISIS, a nuclear-armed Iran, a resurgent Russia, or in my case the newest resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”

When pressed about the possibility of using nuclear weapons to meet the danger posed by his own administration, Walker said, “No options are off the table. People just don’t appreciate the scale of the threat we’re facing here.”

Milwaukee Hasn’t Learned From GenCon

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Two weeks ago, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Midwest Gaming Classic in Brookfield, WI. If you’ve never been, MGC is one of the largest expos for video and other electronic gaming in the country. Filling every available square inch of the Sheraton Hotel it calls home, MGC brings in hundreds upon hundreds of classic arcade games, pinball machines, console, and even PC games, all set on free play as part of your price of admission.

In addition, there are vendors with enviable collections of old cartridge games, new and refurbished consoles, controllers, adaptors, everything you could possibly need to recreate the living room or basement gaming den of your youth. There’s also nerd-themed bands, food, drink, industry speakers, and even a comedy show that, um… never mind.

Anyway. I spent a good forty-five minutes burning through ammo playing Goldeneye 007 on an N64 projected onto a wall, something I haven’t done since my Junior year of high school. Everywhere around me were old consoles hooked up to equally ancient CRT TV’s. It was wonderful.

In the aftermath, I was speaking to Dan Loosen, one of the event’s hard-working organizers, when the conversation turned to the need to expand. Like so many conventions with a nerdy bent over the last ten years or so, MGC has experienced explosive growth. In just five years, they have seen attendance double to over ten-thousand excited, passionate gamers over just two days. And while this is an enviable problem to have, their current facilities are already strained past capacity, to the point that the vendor area has to be housed in a giant, rented tent that takes up valuable parking spaces.

One would think the answer would be simple; move to a larger venue.  Here’s where things get weird, and even downright aggravating for someone like me.

But first, a brief history of nerd conventions in Milwaukee. In 1985, a little convention named GenCon came to town. At its Milwaukee peak, GenCon played host to 30,000 attendees. Magic the Gathering, which ate up so many of our allowances in grade school, debuted at GenCon. But after 18 years, Milwaukee let the continent’s premier gaming convention slip away, and after 2003 with attendance slipping to 23,000, it pulled up stakes and relocated to its new home in Indianapolis.

Since moving, GenCon has exploded into a 60,000 person convention. Its economic impact to the downtown area has been estimated at $50 million annually and growing, second only to the gorram Super Bowl in how much tourism money it brings into local businesses. Add to that the fact local service industry employees routinely vote GenCon as their favorite weekend of the year due to the generosity and friendliness of the people who attend. Many local restaurants, such as The Ram, roll out specialized drinks and food menus to appeal directly to nerdy tastes and sensibilities.

So important to Indianapolis is GenCon, that during the public debate over Indiana’s controversial “Religious Freedom” SB 101 law, GenCon’s threat to relocate made national headlines and put immense pressure on Governor Pence’s office. A “fix” was passed within a week.

And it’s this convention that called Milwaukee home for almost two decades that we simply allowed to walk out the door.

Now, twelve years later, you would think that businesses in a rebuilding downtown MKE would be clamoring to try and recreate the success that Indy has found with GenCon. Perhaps by fostering another well-attended, locally grown convention of similar proclivities with a dedicated fan base already built in. We have the convention space, and we have a significant number of new or remodeled hotel rooms connected via cat-walks. While we’re not ready for a 60k person convention, something half that size would easily be within our grasp.

So, where is it?

Well, remember the Midwest Gaming Classic? Here’s what Dan Loosen had to say about his recent experiences trying to move downtown:

The larger venues in town have been unwilling so far to work with us to bring the cost of using their venues and specifically electrical to a range that we could even realistically consider using them. Until these locations are willing to make accommodations for our type of event, we can’t consider moving. From the last quote that we had, using either major convention facility in town would be a venue cost more than 10 times what we have now.

But perhaps even more revealing, and depressing, was this:

I think that it may have to do with a perception that gamers are “dirty” or something, as we’ve run into that in the past.  We were actually once denied renting a place because I was told that they didn’t want our “clientele” there.

And there it is. Even now, in 2015, when conventions like GenCon and San Diego ComicCon are pumping tens of millions of dollars into their host cities, when comic book movies are raking in a billion dollars at a time, and when nerds have become one of the more affluent groups in the country with some of the best tech and start-up jobs, not to mention a whole lot of disposable income, certain businesses still see us as undesirable clients.

How backwards can you possibly be? Nerd money spends just like anyone else’s money. The difference is, we have more of it and are willing to spend a lot of it if you’ll only treat us like human beings.

Success stories abound. My dear friends over at 42 Lounge, downtown Milwaukee’s only dedicated gamer bar, have been profitable since day one. They’re coming up on their two year anniversary now, and are busy retrofitting a second, larger location on the South side where they’ll be able to serve food and host much larger parties just to keep up with demand. They host cosplay raves, and the Timelord’s Ball, which brought in hundreds of guests to dance the night away at Turner Hall.

There is no excuse for our city not to embrace this long-suppressed and underserved part of its culture and community. It’s time for downtown businesses to join in the fun, not to mention the financial windfall, that would inevitably follow from making Milwaukee once again a marquee destination for nerds and gamers of all stripes.